Sustainable Fish Harvest

Harvest limits for wild fish and other marine animals protect these stocks for the future. Of the 155 major stocks assessed in 2013, 151 (97%) were harvested at levels considered to be sustainable. These levels are based on the best available scientific information. For 64 stocks (41%), there is sufficient historical information to set the level using the mathematically based removal reference, while the harvest levels for an additional 87 stocks (56%) were set using other scientific approaches. Four stocks (3%) were harvested above approved levels.

The number of fish stocks harvested within levels approved by the Department has improved since 2011, when 16 stocks (10%) were harvested above approved levels. The improvement is in large part due to the implementation of Sustainable Fisheries Framework Policies.

Number of major stocks harvested relative to approved levels, Canada, 2011 to 2013

Bar graph

Long description

The bar chart shows the proportion of major wild fish stocks in each of three categories. In 2011, 44% were harvested at or below the removal reference, 46% were harvested at or below other approved levels, and 10% were harvested above the removal reference or other approved levels. In 2012, 41% were harvested at or below the removal reference, 54% were harvested at or below other approved levels, and 5% were harvested above the removal reference or other approved levels. In 2013, 41% were harvested at or below the removal reference, 56% were harvested at or below other approved levels, and 3% were harvested above the removal reference or other approved levels.

Data for this chart
Data for Number of major stocks harvested relative to approved levels, Canada, 2011 to 2013
YearAt or below removal reference
(number of stocks)
At or below other approved levels
(number of stocks)
Above removal references of other approved levelsFootnote [A]
(number of stocks)
2011687116
201264847
201364874

Note:

Footnote A

Most stocks that are harvested above approved levels are subject to quota reconciliation. Quota reconciliation provides that overharvest of a stock in one year is deducted from the harvest limit established for the following year.

Return to footnote A

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How this indicator was calculated

Note: The removal reference is a harvest rate that is estimated to be biologically sustainable, based on an analytical assessment of historical stock productivity data. Major stocks were harvested above the removal reference and/or approved levels primarily in competitive fisheries or because of landings in other directed fisheries. Percentages may not add to 100 due to rounding.
Source: Fisheries and Oceans (2014) Fishery Checklist version 4.

Overharvest sometimes occurs when fishers compete for a share of the total allowable catch, or when fish are caught as bycatchFootnote [1] in another fishery. All four of the stocks that were harvested above approved levels in 2013 are subject to quota reconciliation, where overharvest of a stock in one year is deducted from the harvest limit established for the following year.

Major stocks (freshwater and marine) are classified using a consistent set of criteria, and include all stocks with a landed value of more than $1 million or a landed weight of more than 2000 tonnes, as well as other important stocks (see Data Sources and Methods for details).

The key decisions made by Fisheries and Oceans Canada (Fisheries Resource Management Directorate) are how much of a stock should be harvested and by whom. Harvest rates include all removals of fish (i.e., targeted fishing and bycatch mortality) by all types of fishing. Limits are determined on the basis of the best available information and knowledge of the biology, economics and social aspects associated with a given stock. The overall goal is always conservation, responsible and sustainable harvesting practices, and equitable distribution of the resource among user groups. A precautionary approachFootnote [2] is used. When scientific information is uncertain, unreliable or inadequate, decisions must still be taken, and the absence of adequate scientific information should not be used as a reason to postpone or fail to take action to avoid serious harm to the resource. "The precautionary approach to fisheries recognizes that changes in fisheries systems are only slowly reversible, difficult to control, not well understood, and subject to changing environment and human values".Footnote [3]

Harvest rates are reported against the removal reference as a baseline in cases where a removal reference is known. The removal reference is an approach for determining the maximum acceptable removal rate for the stock when there is sufficient historical data on stock productivity to allow the level to be estimated analytically. As Fisheries and Oceans Canada continues to implement the precautionary approach, removal reference levels are established for more stocks. Forty seven stocks (30%) have fully defined removal references, and a further 31 stocks (20%) have removal references defined for one or two of the three stock status zones (i.e., critical, cautious and healthy). While most of the major stocks have had some components of the precautionary approach implemented (88%), only 20% have had all components fully implemented.Footnote [4]

Sustainable fish harvest, by stock group

Stocks can be grouped based on similar biology. Of eight groups, seven are currently harvested within limits. Some groundfish stocks have been over-harvested. This is partially because groundfish are often caught through a competitive fishery; total harvest is more difficult to control in a competitive fishery than when fishers have individual quotas. Groundfish are often captured as bycatch in mixed stock fishing areas.

Number of major stocks harvested relative to approved levels, by stock group, Canada, 2013

Bar graph

Long description

The bar chart shows the number of stocks by harvest rate (Above removal reference or other approved levels; At or below other approved levels; At or below removal reference) for each stock group (Marine mammals, Groundfish, Small Pelagics, Large Pelagics, Salmonids, Crustaceans, Molluscs and Others).

Data for this chart
Data for Number of major stocks harvested relative to approved levels, by stock group, Canada, 2013
Stock groupSpecies includedAt or below removal reference
(number of stocks)
At or below other approved levels
(number of stocks)
Above removal references of other approved levelsFootnote [A]
(number of stocks)
Marine mammalsWhales, walrus1100
GroundfishHalibut, rockfish, cod, flounder, hake, redfish, dogfish, haddock, lingcod, perch, plaice, pollock, sablefish, skate, thornyhead13294
Small pelagicsHerring, mackerel, whitefish, capelin, sardine, striped bass, gaspereau, eulachon4180
Large pelagicsTuna, shark, swordfish310
SalmonidsSalmon, char, trout1340
CrustaceansCrab, lobster, shrimp, prawn, krill19160
MolluscsClam, scallop, whelk, geoduck880
OthersSea cucumber, sea urchin, eels310
Total 64874

Note:

Footnote A

Most stocks that are harvested above approved levels are subject to quota reconciliation. Quota reconciliation provides that overharvest of a stock in one year is deducted from the harvest limit established for the following year.

Return to footnote A

Download data file (Excel/CSV; 1.64 KB)

How this indicator was calculated

Note: The species in each stock group are listed with the chart data. Pelagic fish live in midwater or close to the surface, in contrast to groundfish, which are usually caught near the ocean bottom. Crustaceans are shelled animals with joints, such as lobster, crab and shrimp. Molluscs include bivalve shellfish species, such as clams, oysters and mussels, which we commonly think of as shellfish. Dogfish were previously classified as a large pelagic species, but have been included with groundfish to maintain consistency with Integrated Fish Management Plans.
Source: Fisheries and Oceans Canada (2014) Fishery Checklist version 4.

Most stocks, including all groundfish, that are harvested above approved levels are subject to quota reconciliation, where the overharvest is deducted from the harvest limit for the following year.

Some species and stock groups are more difficult to monitor than others. Fisheries and Oceans Canada is working to improve stock status reference points and control harvest levels through the adoption of the precautionary approach.

Related indicators

Other information

Theme III icon
This indicator is used to measure progress toward Target 5.1: Sustainable Fisheries – Improve the management and conservation of major stocks of the Federal Sustainable Development Strategy 2013-2016.

Footnotes

Footnote 1

"Bycatch" is the part of a catch that is not the target of the fishery. It is caught incidentally during the fishing activity.

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Footnote 2

Fisheries and Oceans Canada (2009) A Fishery Decision-Making Framework Incorporating the Precautionary Approach. Retrieved on 11 July, 2014.

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Footnote 3

Food and Agriculture Organization (1996) FAO Technical Guidelines for Responsible Fisheries - Precautionary Approach to Capture Fisheries and Species Introductions.Retrieved on 11 July 2014.

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Footnote 4

The components of the Precautionary Approach are: upper stock reference points, limit reference points, removal reference points for each of the three zones (critical, cautious and healthy); developed, implemented and reviewed harvest decision rules.

Return to footnote 4 referrer